News and Analysis

Two European Nations Set To Join NATO In Matter Of Weeks; Russia Issues Stark Warning
A flag with official emblem of NATO during press conference for the opening of NATO Counter Intelligence Centre of Excellence (CI COE) opens in Krakow, Poland on 19 October, 2017.
Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is going to likely result in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expanding its alliance from 30 nations to 32 nations with Finland and Sweden set to join the organization as soon as early summer.

“U.S. officials said NATO membership for both Nordic countries was ‘a topic of conversation and multiple sessions’ during talks between the alliance’s foreign ministers last week attended by Sweden and Finland,” The Times reported. “Finland’s application is expected in June, with Sweden expected to follow.”

“How can this be anything but a massive strategic blunder for Putin?” one senior American official said.

Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Peskov responded to the news by telling reporters on Monday, “We have repeatedly said that the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation and its further expansion will not bring stability to the European continent.”

Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin said earlier this month that the country’s decision to join NATO would be made “thoroughly but quickly” this spring, adding that the reason was that “Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was.”

“If the president or I voiced strong opinions on the issue, it would be the end of the debate […] I believe it’s very important that all of Finland’s most central institutions are involved in the ongoing debate,” she said.

“The secretary for Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party, Tobias Baudin, told local media outlets that it was reviewing its international security policy, and would discuss whether or not to join NATO,” Newsweek reported. “That review should be complete within the next few months, he said.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a threat, saying that Russia would respond if the countries joined NATO.

“Clearly [the] accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO, which is first and foremost a military alliance, would have serious military-political repercussions that would demand a response from our country,” she said.

The Daily Mail reported at the end of March that amid heightened tensions between Russia and the two nations that the Russian military flew two planes, which violated Swedish airspace, while reportedly carrying nuclear weapons.

The report stated:

The flyover near the island of Gotland on March 2 was a deliberate act designed to intimidate Sweden, according to Swedish news channel TV4 Nyheterna.

A total of four planes had taken off from the Russian air base of Kaliningrad.

They consisted of two Sukhoi 24 attack planes, which were escorted by two Sukhoi 27 fighter jets.

It was the two attack planes which were, according to TV4 Nyheter sources, equipped with nuclear weapons.

The violation of Swedish territory lasted for about a minute.

The country’s air force deployed two JAS 39 Gripen which took pictures of the intruders.

It was then, say Swedish media, that it was confirmed the Russian planes were equipped with nuclear warheads.

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